Dressing Etiquette for the Workplace

If a top feels too short or too tight, retire it from your work wardrobe.

If a top feels too short or too tight, retire it from your work wardrobe.

You know that the way you dress at work affects your success. But what about etiquette? Dressing etiquette concerns the behavior and decorum you demonstrate with clients, co-workers, and friends through what you wear. It's all about what's appropriate, polite, and conventional. While fashion changes, most basic etiquette remains timeless. A few central concepts will help you mind your manners when you hit the closet before work.

Look Polished

It's not just sloppy to look wrinkled, soiled, or messy at work. It's also impolite. Consider the message you send to your colleagues when you forget to wash your hair, show up in wrinkled blouse or wear a pair of black plants that clearly need to hit the dry cleaners. You're saying that your co-workers are not worth the extra time it would take for you to look polished and appropriate. When your co-worker blows out her hair or wears a tailored top to work, she's not just doing it for her clients. She has you in mind, too, and wants to dress sharply for the company as a whole. Follow suit.

Say No to Sexy

Save the cleavage for cocktail hour, and never wear a low-cut blouse to work. Attracting attention to your well-endowed curves is never polite in the workplace, a pure space and safe haven from that type of sexual distraction. Even worse, if you dress sexy at work, wearing tight skirts and bursting tops, you scream "I'm a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen." Don't dress in a way that attracts stares, then claim you're uncomfortable when you receive them. While some of those men are looking at your chest, your boss will be actively looking to replace you.

Dress With the Company Culture

The most polite way to dress for work is in tandem with your co-workers. If your office is fashion-forward, try to participate with bright blouses, stylish pants, and accessories. If your workplace is defined by conservatism, leave the zebra handbag at home and wear a polished suit or tailored, classic outfit. Classic colors to reach for are charcoal, khaki, navy, and black; these never go out of style. Your biggest superpower is observation when it comes to dressing appropriately at your company. Check out other women's shoes, bags, and outfits. Be unique, but blend in by following the general fashion concept you see.

Know Your Size

You can drop hundreds on an outfit, but if it doesn't fit, it's not going to look sophisticated. Take the time to have your clothes fitted, or find out your correct measurements. This way, when you hit that board meeting or lunch with clients, no one will be wincing at your too-small jacket or your baggy trousers. If you buy long-lasting pieces, you can have a tailor alter them if your weight changes or a season demands a new hem length. Regardless, before you leave that closet mirror, assess your clothes for fit, and check that you look relaxed and natural in your suit or outfit.

 

About the Author

Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.

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